DOD HIV and "Transgender" Policies Underscore Religious Discrimination

Jun 8, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite the fact that the Department of Defense (DOD) is unlawfully denying religious exemptions for service members for the COVID-19 shots, the Secretary of Defense updated the DOD’s policies yesterday to now allow service members who test positive for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) to continue to serve on active duty. In other words, an HIV-positive service member remains deployable while an otherwise healthy service member who submits a religious accommodation request from the COVID shots are “non-deployable” and subject to dismissal. 

In April 2021, the DOD revised its policies on so-called “transgender” service members. Despite the fact that such service members may undergo opposite sex hormones and life-altering surgery, under the Biden administration transgenders may serve openly and will not be discharged from the service. 

Yet again, under the Biden administration, healthy service members who submit religious accommodation requests are being brought up for discharge and severe punishment.

Regarding the HIV policy, the DOD’s press release reads, “Under the Department’s updated policies, individuals who have been identified as HIV-positive, are asymptomatic, and who have a clinically confirmed undetectable viral load will have no restrictions applied to their deployability or to their ability to commission while a Service member solely on the basis of their HIV-positive status.  Nor will such individuals be discharged or separated solely on the basis of their HIV-positive status.” 

Previously under military policy, individuals with HIV were prohibited from enlisting or being deployed overseas. However, a federal court ordered the DOD in April to end the long-standing Pentagon policy forbidding enlisted military service members from deploying in active duty outside the continental U.S. and being commissioned as officers if they have HIV. 

Meanwhile, the DOD continues to unlawfully discriminate against military service members by allowing medical exemptions for the COVID-19 shots while denying religious exemptions. 

Liberty Counsel represents plaintiffs from all branches of the military in Navy SEAL 1 v. Austin who were denied religious exemptions from the COVID shot mandate.   

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The Department of Defense’s discrimination on the basis of religion is blatant, and the agenda to purge our military of service members who have sincerely held religious beliefs against taking the COVID shots must end. These honorable and brave service members fight for our freedom. We will continue to fight for them.” 

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